UK Schools Must Engage Pupils Better or be Downgraded

Charlie Taylor, the government’s advisor on behavior, has recommended that schools must do more to engage passive students who have a tendency to switch off in lessons. While “chair-chucking boys” get more attention, it’s the pupils who are doing the minimum in lessons that should be under more focus, writes Jeevan Vasagar at the Guardian.

From next year, school inspections will focus more on children who are “switching off” in class, as recommended by the head teacher, who has been recruited to review the government’s approach on behavior.

A result of this shift in focus could be that some schools rated as outstanding could be downgraded.

Visiting a Birmingham school, Taylor said:

“I think often these disengaged children are [those] who won’t succeed academically.” He said once schools addressed this, it would make a difference.

Schools will come under pressure to do more for pupils who sat back, he said, adding:

“The behavior that gets attention is the behavior of boys who swear and throw stuff around, yes girls, but more often boys. Chair-chucking boys, that’s the behavior you notice. But often it can be girls who are expressing emotional distress in other ways.”

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has recently warned that it’s not the lawless inner-city comprehensives that should be targeted for reform. Rather, he believes we should be targeting the schools that are “muddling through”.

The Government has long been pained by the “relentless mediocrity” of schools in middle class suburbs whose poor performance is disguised by their absence of disciplinary problems, as reported at Education News.

In an article at the Telegraph, he said:

“Why should we put up with a school content to let a child sit at the back of the class, swapping Facebook updates? Or one where pupils and staff count down the hours to the end of term without ever asking why B grades can’t be turned into As?”

Taylor, in his role, has also advised that courts should crack down on the parents of children who were persistently missing school.

Nearly 12,000 parents were prosecuted for their children’s truancy last year, of whom more than 9,000 were convicted, says the Ministry of Justice. And nearly 2,400 parents were given a conditional discharge, while 25 were jailed.

Taylor has commented that the process needed to be streamlined so that magistrates knew that schools and councils had tried everything short of taking a family to court.

He said: “This is absolutely the end of the road, and when you do get to the end of the road there needs to be a consequence, and I think at the moment [there isn't].”